Sketch by Jack Chalker

Liverpool to Halifax
SS Oronsay
SS Oransay

The men boarded the SS Oransay, which was an Orient Line British ship of 20000 tonnes.  There were two other Field Ambulances that were part of the 18th Division as well.  These were the 197 and 198 Field Ambulances and were attached to 55th and 53rd Brigade’s.  A lot of these men were from East Anglia as well.  The whole of the 18th Division boarded their troopships including the British vessels Reina Del Pacifico, Orcades, Andes, Warwick Castle, Durban Castle, Duchess of Atholl and Oransay. There was also a Polish ship the MV Sobieski.   These were escorted by British cruisers, Destroyers and Corvette class ships.

Around 15 men of the 196 had already left for Liverpool for embarkation there and they travelled on the SS Andes to meet the rest of the convoy. On each ship there was a detachment of Royal Army Medical Corps personnel away from the main body of their individual unit.  This was known as “trooping” and had the purpose of caring for combatant troops medically when they went abroad on a ship. 

On 28th October 1941 The SS Oransay left Avonmouth and headed up the English coast in stormy weather, with nearly all of the 196 and around 3000 other troops.

On the 30th October the SS Oransay arrived at Greenock in Scotland were it joined the rest of the fleet for an, unknown at that time, journey across the Atlantic to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.  The 4th Suffolks were also on the SS Andes. A lot of the men realised that they were heading West and for Canada or the US.

The 2nd of November, in the middle of the Atlantic, saw the British convoy meet up with an American convoy of escort ships that would escort them to Halifax. The British escorts then left the convoy and this job was taken over by the US Navy.  Of course the United States had not joined the war at this stage, so this convoy remained secret.  They arrived in Halifax on 7th November 1941 and barely had chance to stretch their legs before embarking once again for another unknown destination.



Halifax to Singapore



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[196 Field Ambulance] [Training] [Liverpool - Halifax] [Halifax - Singapore] [Battle Singapore] [Captivity] [Roll of Honour] [Photo]


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